Medical staff at East Baton Rouge Parish Prison say they are understaffed, overworked and lack critical supplies _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- East Baton Rouge Parish Prison

The deaths of a half-dozen East Baton Rouge Parish Prison inmates from February 2012 to November 2014 do not point to a pattern of deficient inmate medical care, attorneys for the parish’s sheriff and prison’s warden have told a Baton Rouge federal judge.

Sheriff Sid Gautreaux and Warden Dennis Grimes are asking U.S. District Judge John deGravelles to dismiss a wrongful-death lawsuit filed against them last month by the family of an elderly Gonzales man who died at the prison late last year.

Paul R. Cleveland, 72, suffered from heart problems and mental illness, as well as diabetes, high blood pressure and other ailments.

The suit by Cleveland’s son and two daughters also names Prison Medical Services, a division of East Baton Rouge Parish Emergency Medical Services, as a defendant.

Prison Medical Services, through its attorneys, likewise has asked deGravelles to throw out the suit.

The lawsuit points out that Cleveland’s death in November 2014 was preceded by the deaths of Parish Prison inmates Antwoin Haden in July 2014, David O’Quin in February 2013, Daniel Christian Melton in November 2012 and George Turner in February 2012.

The suit does not mention the death of inmate Jeremy Hilliard in April 2014.

“The EBRPP has demonstrated a pattern of serious deficiencies in providing for basic human needs of adequate medical care, too often resulting in the death of an inmate,” the suit, filed Nov. 6, alleges.

But in a Dec. 2 response to the suit’s allegations, attorneys for Gautreaux and Grimes contend Cleveland’s family has failed to allege a “pervasive pattern of serious deficiencies in providing adequate health care to pretrial detainees with heart problems or mental illness at the Prison.”

“Instead, the Plaintiffs allege generally that the Prison did not have adequate procedures to treat Cleveland’s heart problems and bipolar disease,” the sheriff’s and warden’s attorneys argue. “The Plaintiffs attempt to allege a pattern of serious deficiencies by describing several other inmates who have allegedly died at the Prison as a result of inadequate medical care.

“However, this is merely an allegation of several other deaths of inmates while in Prison, not a specific claim of a pattern of specific similar omissions ... that allegedly caused these inmates’ deaths.”

Franz Borghardt, an attorney for Cleveland’s son and daughters, said Wednesday he and the family believe the suit is a truthful and detailed account of what happened to Cleveland while in Parish Prison.

“Of course, it’s unsurprising that they have denied the claims in our suit and we look forward to litigating and winning these motions to dismiss and moving forward,” he added.

Cleveland’s family claims, among other things, that the medical personnel who treated him at the prison were inadequately trained to recognize how his bipolar disorder and mental illness could affect his ability to communicate his medical needs or to meaningfully take part in his medical treatment. The family also alleges prison officials were inadequately equipped to recognize and treat mental illness, and that prison medical personnel were inadequately trained and equipped to treat his heart problems.

The Prison Medical Services attorneys note in a federal court filing Monday that Cleveland received a great deal of care from medical specialists and various nurses, social workers and other health care professionals.

“Plaintiffs may have not been satisfied with the quality or quantity of care afforded to Cleveland by Prison Medical Services and its staff, but the complaint does not allege a denial of services” the attorneys argue.

Cleveland was booked into Parish Prison on Sept. 20, 2014, and died Nov. 12, 2014, from what authorities described as severe heart problems. He was arrested after allegedly threatening to kill an Ascension Parish judge, a prosecutor and himself.